The Visitors. The men climbed the mountain. We are not told how long this took or if it was cold or warm during the climb. It is amazing what scripture does not tell us. Once on the mountain, Jesus allowed the men to see Him transfigured.
And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. Matthew 17:2 (NASB)
The Greek word that is translated as "transfigured" comes from the word METAMORPHOTHE from which we get the English word metamorphosis. That is, Jesus changed from His human form into the glory that He had when He was in heaven before He came to earth. John 17:5 reminds us that Jesus had glory when He was in heaven - the Shekinah glory (Ezek. 43:2-5).
Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. John 17:5 (NASB)
What did Peter, James and John see? What would you have seen? What did they realize? Why did Jesus bring only these three men along? I do not believe that this journey was so much for the benefit of Jesus as it was for the spiritual growth of these disciples. These men did not know what was going to await them on the secluded mountain. But Jesus knew these men needed this experience. They needed to see more of Jesus - His glory. There is an important lesson here. Do you want to see more of Jesus? If so, you need to get alone on a "high mountain" in order to see His glory. This adventure was not about discovering something about themselves. The adventure was all about Jesus. For me, my high mountain is a recliner and I find some greatest "visions" of Jesus in the pages of scripture. I hope you do too!
The gospel of Luke says the transfiguration occurred while Jesus was praying,
And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. Luke 9:29 (NASB)
Jesus' face was changed and His clothing turned white and started shining. Matthew 17:2 says that His face was like the sun. That means His face was extremely white and bright. What an experience these men had.
We are also told that two men joined Jesus. They were Moses and Elijah.
And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:30-31 (NASB)
While we cannot be sure, I believe that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses that will appear during the Tribulation Period that are mentioned in Revelation 11:1-6. Revelation 11:6 describes an event that will occur before the kingdom. It is a pre-kingdom event. When we realize that Jesus promised the disciples that some of them would see the kingdom, we can confidently say that Moses and Elijah will be present in the kingdom and Peter, James and John had a glimpse of the future earthly kingdom. It is reasonable to conclude that Moses and Elijah will participate in both the Tribulation and kingdom. Next we are told that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about His death, resurrection and ascension. This reveals that they and heaven knew what was going to happen. They knew the plan, but earth did not know the plan.
Sometime during the discussion the three disciples fell asleep.
Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. Luke 9:32 (NASB)
I am amazed that they fell asleep. Why would they fall asleep just when incredible things are occurring? The answer may be that the time on the mountain had continued into the early morning hours. Yet, weren't they thrilled enough to stay awake to experience these incredible events? Regardless of how these men reacted, Jesus was no ordinary man. He was the God of the universe and His glory was on display!
Peter's Idea. It is obvious from the next verse that Peter understood that this was an incredible event. So he volunteered what I am sure he thought was a terrific idea.
And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah" — not realizing what he was saying. Luke 9:33 (NASB)
He suggested that they make three tabernacles. One for Jesus, one for Moses and the third for Elijah. It is possible that this event occurred during the month of Tishri (approx. September-October). If so, this could have been the time for the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. The Feast of Booths lasted about seven days and during the feast the Jewish people would live in booths as a reminder that the Jews lived in tents during their wanderings in the desert as they journeyed towards the Promised Land. Therefore, if this event occurred during the month of Tishri, Peter could have been thinking that he should make a booth for them. If so, he was not thinking very clearly - that is the message of verse 33. The verse concludes with "- not realizing what he was saying." Mark adds,
For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. Mark 9:6 (NASB)
His fear resulted in a "knee-jerk" reaction. His comment was foolish because Moses and Elijah were heavenly visitors who would return to heaven. They were not planning to stay.
The Heavenly Voice.
Then we are told that a cloud covered them on that high mountain and their fear grew even worse.
While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. Luke 9:34 (NASB)
Matthew adds that the cloud was bright and surrounded them. Luke reveals that the cloud gradually formed around them - "as they entered."
Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, " This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" Luke 9:35 (NASB)
Matthew 17:5 adds the phrase, "with whom I am well-pleased." Peter, James and John heard God the Father speaking. The message was that Jesus was God the Son and they needed to listen to Him. These men really did not understand Jesus. They had God - Jesus - in their very presence and they were listening to God at an altitude of 9,200 feet. Wow, what an experience. They had a glimpse of the future kingdom, just as Jesus promised. Matthew 17:6 says that the men fell to the ground with their faces on the ground.
Then the transfiguration of Jesus ended.